As a teenager, I played the living hell out of every RPG that crossed my path (regardless of quality), so seeing Pokemon take off during the late ’90s gave my heart hope that the world would soon be converted to my particular cult. Unfortunately, as a teenager, I also happened to be a teenager, which meant that playing something designated as kids’ stuff could cause slight shunning or a toilet-based execution. That didn’t stop me from covertly playing through the original Red, which I found curiously addicting despite the simple mechanics. Poke-fatigue set in pretty early for me, though; about halfway into Gold, I realized I’d been playing the game more out of duty than fun, so I set it free in the wilds of eBay. The last time I seriously decided to check in on the series came upon the release of 2002′s Ruby, which I assumed would take the newfound power of the GBA to make an altogether new experience. It did not.
Okay, I also finished (and still own) LeafGreen, but that was more for the sake of nostalgia than anything else. I have an affinity for the original 150 — and please, don’t ask about my knowledge of either The Pokemon Rap or Weird Al’s Pokemon.
Most of my motivation for blogging about the newest Pokemon (I chose White) stemmed from simple curiosity; I genuinely wanted to see how much the game had truly changed in the decade I had left it behind. Of course, I knew to set my expectations somewhat low, as Game Freak seems intent on continually refreshing its user base by sticking with the fundamentals of the originals — if you think about it, fans of Red, Blue and Yellow are getting old and crusty enough to buy the new installment for their children.
Having been so used to seeing the Dragon Quest-style interface of the first few generations, the GUI improvements to White and Black (presumably a series’ standby for quite some time) impressed me with their flashiness — though they don’t always seem designed with the d-pad in mind. I’ve never been a fan of games that require you use both the stylus and the traditional buttons in alternating shifts; I prefer using either one or the other exclusively since it always feels awkward to keep a tiny and easily lost piece of plastic floating near your person until you need to use it again. It’s a shame you can’t use the stylus to control your character — instead, the bottom screen features a pretty essential set of tools — since battles work so well by poking at oversized buttons on the screen. That said, despite all of these menu improvements, I’m a bit surprised that, given the amount of information White makes freely available to the player, you can’t get a description of your current moves in-battle without diving through a few needless screens first. Sure, it doesn’t take long to remember the effects of four abilities per Pokemon, but there’s no real reason for that information not to be there.